The 10 all-too-familiar stages of essay writing

It’s officially Spring! The daffies are out, butterflies are flying about, and the library is packed with students in despair. Whether you are struggling with a couple of 1500-word essays, or you have simply lost your old self somewhere in your 12,500-word dissertation, the stages you will go through are usually pretty similar for all of us.

1. Being completely unaware of what you have to do, and not trying to find out.

Yes, you know what I am talking about. You look at the essay question, you don’t understand half of the words, and so you shove it back into your notes where it belongs.

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2. “I still have so much time!”

Soon enough, your professor, or dissertation supervisor, or your classmates, will ask you about the dreaded document, and you will quietly whisper to yourself the deadly phrase: “I still have so much time!”

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3. Doing the math, and secretly freaking out.

Eventually you will accidentally find out that it is not January anymore, and that there is a month (or is it a week?) left before the deadline. You will frantically count the little boxes on your calendar fifteen times, until you realise that the math is not on your side this time around.

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4. Kind of realising what you have to do, and genuinely freaking out.

You will then start asking questions, reading through the module outline, and scouring through your memory for anything you could find out about this mysterious assignment. And yes, then you will freak out. Hopefully in your own flat so your expertly trained friends and family can calm you down.

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5. Finding hope in anything remotely linked to your topic.

After hours of procrastination in the library you will find the tiniest hint of what you are actually supposed to write, eventually slipping back into your bed and forgetting the dreaded calendar boxes from a few days ago.

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6. Realising that there is a week, month – maybe days or hours, who knows? – left and actually writing most of the damn thing.

After a week of being out of the house, or in bed, you will have to face the pile of library books you grabbed in panic a week ago. Yes, this is when all the words will eventually appear on your Word document, while you drown yourself in caffeine and sugar.

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7. Watching any series, or YouTube video, just to not do this.

“I only have 500/ 1000/ 4000 words left” you will say with pride. And the procrastination monkey takes over again! This is also the stage you may feel inclined to, well I don’t know, let’s say write an article about your essay writing experience…

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8. Negotiating with yourself to watch another episode, another film, or another season

Basically a continuation of the previous step… At this stage you will put all your Suits and Good Wife training into effect, simply to convince yourself that the time to write the rest of the freaking thing has not come yet. And possibly never will.

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9. Writing the rest of it, and hating your past self throughout.

Self-loathing will dominate this phase, as you reminisce about the previous eight steps and promise to yourself to never – not ever! – do this again.

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10. Constantly shifting from “this is good” to “this is absolute trash”.

As there is only hours (or is it minutes?) left at your disposal to write this thing, you may find yourself drifting from confidence to despair as certain words or phrases in your essay jump out at you, leaving you staring at your screen around 10 times per hour completely confused. And yes, this will mean you’re still to do all the formatting and bibliography that you obviously left until the last minute. You then submit it, and sooner or later you will go back to step one…

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